Welcome to another installment of Brush Pen Lettering with Black Chalk Co!

In this post we’re going to look at guides and how these can assist you with learning brush pen lettering.

Bonus: FREE downloadable and printable brush pen lettering guides included in this post!

Now that you’ve gone out and sourced the supplies you need to begin, it’s time to understand the next piece of the puzzle.

Brush pen lettering is all about letters that look to be free flowing and connected. I say look to be, because one of the greatest hacks I’ve learnt with brush pen lettering is to actually take the pen off the page after each stroke. It’s important to start your learning journey (or… learney) by breaking down each letter into a combination of different strokes, and then mastering those strokes.

You may have attempted brush pen lettering in the past and been frustrated with wonky, uneven letters or inconsistent strokes. This may be because you’re trying to letter the whole word all in one go. It may also be because you haven’t spent enough time practising the staple brush pen lettering strokes.

Practising drawing stroke after stroke after stroke doesn’t sound like a fun time, but it is absolutely essential to improve the quality of your lettering. By repeating the same drills again and again you are building the movements to your muscle memory.

Hand lettering is not the same as handwriting, so you need to forget the way you write (well, not forever. Just for now) and teach your body to hand letter. The more you practise the strokes the more it will become second nature when you pick up a brush pen.

The guide

OK so what part does a guide have to play in all of this I hear you ask? Well, the guide is going to help you with your letter formation, spacing, angles and drills.

So… DOWNLOAD THE FREE BRUSH PEN LETTERING GUIDES RIGHT MEOW! 🙂

Click here to begin download

There are two sizes provided, small and large. Small is better suited to smaller brush tipped pens like the Pentel Touch Sign Pen, and the large guide to a Tombow Dual Brush Pen and the like.

To explain all the different types of lines that make up the guides, I’ve included some of the information below for your convenience:

Example of Brush Pen Lettering Guide

2nd ascender – the highest point of your stems on lowercase letters such as d, f, l, k should NOT touch this point, but can sit between it and the 1st ascender

1st ascender – where your stems on lowercase letters such as d, f, l, k should pass through

Waistline
– the top of the body of your lowercase letters

X-Height
– where the main body of your lowercase letters should be

Baseline
– the bottom of the body of your lowercase letters / where the letters ‘sit’

1st descender
– where your tails on lowercase letters such as g, j, p, y should pass through

2nd descender – the lowest point of your tails on lowercase letters such as g, j, p, y should NOT touch this point, but can sit between it and the 1st descender

I recommend that you print a copy of the guides and place them under a piece of tracing, Rhodia or laser print paper so that you can save printer ink and reuse it (how you like me now, environment?)

DIY

These two sizes aren’t going to suit every brush pen out there. So to make your own guide, simply rule out the ascenders, waistline, baseline and descenders on a blank piece of paper at a size that you’re comfortable with or that suits the pen you’re using. Generally the distance between the ascenders and the waistline, and the baseline and the descenders, are the same. The x-height (between the waistline and baseline) can be bigger or smaller – but that’s totally up to you. Experiment with different sized spaces and see what kinds of letters you can create.

Feel free to add angled lines in as well! Again, these can be ruled at whatever angle you’re comfortable with and as far apart from each other as you like – lightly drawn 45 degree angles 1.5cm apart is a good one to start with. The more upright the angle the more formal your lettering will look, and the more intense the slope the more informal your lettering will look.

Experimenting with the distances of the guidelines and the angles of your lettering is a great way to develop your own style, but feel free to save that for later if you want to focus on nailing down the fundamentals first.

Summary

A guide is an important part of learning and refining brush pen lettering. It will assist you with structure, balance and drills, and making your own custom guide is perfect for developing your own sexy signature style. It’s important to note that while you learn to letter using the guide, this absolutely does not mean that your style has to be restricted to plain, boring, symmetrical words forever (that I secretly love anyway). I ALSO love ‘messy’ brush pen lettering that has personality and a freehand look to it – but it’s important to get the fundamentals locked down first before branching off to find your individual style.

Try it yourself

Download and print the brush pen lettering guide and get familiar with it! Maybe even draw your own? Upload your photos to Instagram and tag @BlackChalkCo and #BlackChalkCo so I can see your work!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please leave them in the comments section below!

– Emma